Where Decay Sleeps: book review

Author: Anna Cheung

Genre: Gothic; Horror; Poetry

Publisher: Haunt Publishing

Year: 2021


The amazing Rebecca Wojturska, Managing Director and Editor of Haunt Publishing, very kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, so here it goes!

Where Decay Sleeps is a dark, gothic poetry collection of 36 poems which, divided into seven sections, reveal the seven stages of decay: pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, livor mortis, putrefaction, decomposition and skeletonisation. It’s the debut poetry collection from Anna Cheung. You’ll find darkness, monsters and creepy creatures lurking from the pages, haunted places, traditional Gothic images that blend with modern-day technology and Chinese folklore. I am extremely grateful for the chance to write a review for this book, as I was looking forward to reading it, I knew it would be expertly put together, I knew I would love the poems. I just didn’t know they would be that beautiful and haunting.

I absolutely loved this book! I read it in one sitting, as I couldn’t stop after just one poem. The writing was so captivating, so smooth and flowing, which is not often the case with poetry. Now is the time for me to confess that I don’t read a lot of poetry, but when I do, I make sure it is a good selection of poems, like this one! Where Decay Sleeps did not disappoint. It is the perfect atmospheric read, whether you want to go on the full ride and read all the poems at once or take it in bit by bit. They are so mesmerising, super creepy, and the atmosphere they create is macabre and perfect for Gothic lovers.

The way some of the poems were typeset definitely added to the experience of just reading plain text organised in stanzas. The visual effects were phenomenal and very adequate to every piece. Their structure made such a difference, reading them was even more chilling and tense, with words floating around the pages, being stretched out or italicised. Adding the visual element gave the poems a nice rhythm, slowing down on all the right places to emphasise the terrifying scenes. It was as if I could see the blood dripping or the corpses rising from the graves, skeleton bones cracking and…

Excerpt from ‘Summoning Baba Yaga’

Every word Anna Cheung has used is the right word, it all felt like a perfectly well-put (even though decaying) body of work. The wordplay is just so evocative and impactive, written in such an elaborate way and very well thought, which for Gothic poetry is very important. I wasn’t scared when I was reading the poems but I definitely got chills down my spine quite a few times and my imagination went wild with all the descriptions. All the pieces inside are so eerie and atmospheric, they create an ambience perfect for Halloween-y kinds of gatherings, to read around the fire on a crispy autumn night or snuggled on your sofa in the evening. The topics are varied and the content warnings in the beginning are always welcome for these types of books.

The seven parts of the collection make it diverse and each part, as well as every single poem in it, is unique. But at the same time, they all form a perfectly well-working body of poetry, bound together by the common theme of gore, decay, blood and death. The way the author incorporated modern technology into each poem is brilliant, and it only makes them even more disturbing and thought provoking. To think that such everyday devices or apps that we use all the time could be related to something so macabre, makes you anxious, just to think of the dark side of something that we use so mindlessly every single day… Even though that’s the general feeling of the collection, there are a few light-hearted poems that add a touch of humour to the darkness. I thought they were so clever and so difficult to write, the way to make a creepy thing entertaining.

Where Decay Sleeps is a masterly created piece of work and a highly recommended read. The poems are mesmerising and addictive, once you start reading, you can’t stop until you finish the whole thing. I’ll definitely go back and re-read some of the poems when I feel I’m in need of an extra spooky experience. They will stay with me for a long time, that’s for sure.

I’ll leave you with another short excerpt from ‘Creature’:

The eyes are milky white,
moons gleaned from open craniums,
unseeing under the cold starless night.

In case you need me… #owlbeereading!

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